Standards and labels: help speed up the energy transition!


It is no longer an issue of debate whether the world will ever work on 100% renewable energy, nor whether this is a realistic goal for this century. The question is only how fast it will go. Are we talking about 20, 30 or 40 years?

The trend is hopeful. The installed volumes of renewable energy are breaking records year after year. And the more we install, the cheaper the technology becomes and the more people and companies are getting interested. Hundreds of companies are committing to 100% renewable. Think of coalitions as the RE100 and initiatives as the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance.

Unfortunately the transition is still not going fast enough to avoid a dangerous climate change. To keep the global average temperature increase within the 2 degree limit (and preferably even as close as possible to 1,5 degrees, as agreed in the Paris Agreement) the transition to a carbon neutral and even carbon negative society has to go faster, much faster.

Standards and ecolabels can play a role in this evolution. One of the reason why ecolabels exist, is to help consumers to do more and to push complete sectors in a more sustainable solution. Unfortunately, only a handful of standards explicitly recommend renewable energy. And those doing it have it often as an optional, not obligatory, requirement.

There are several reasons for that.

  • The most influential standards work at international level, and many think that the conditions in regard to renewable energy are very different between countries and regions. Therefore they assume that it is impossible to make a general, globally workable recommendation.
  • Energy, and in particular electricity continues to be perceived as a ‘difficult topic’ and ‘very different from the other aspects the label is focusing on’.
  • Energy is not visible, and therefore easily forgotten.
  • Standards usually review their criteria once in 5 to 10 years. From the perspective of the fast evolution of renewable energy in the last years, this is a very period. What made sense in 2012, isn’t necessarily true in 2017… An example of this is the Green power criteria of LEED. LEED was amongst the first standards to include a chapter about Green Power in its standard, but its text hasn’t been brought inline with the latest developments and sounds now rather outdated and confusing.

We call upon our colleagues from other ecolabels, to evaluate options to include renewable energy in their criteria, or to check how the standard can otherwise help to speed up a transition towards 100% renewable energy.

Renewable energy is fast becoming the cheapest way to produce energy. In many parts of the world, it already is. Solar panels are available worldwide, and following the approval of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 2 Guidance renewable energy contracts are rapidly becoming popular, even in non liberalized electricity markets. Although this is all rather new, nobody has to be afraid that she or he will feel a ‘lonely fighter’. Wherever one looks, companies and households are switching to renewable energy and communicating about it.

Time to reflect this evolution in existing standards. We are thinking of the many standards for buildings, for the tourist sector and for restaurants, for consumer goods as paper and soaps, for CSR, carbon foot printing standards, and many many more…

If your have questions or need technical assistance, we will be happy to help! Contact us for more information.

Steven Vanholme
Program manager EKOenergy